Here are some ideas that are floating around the NHL right now, and my take on each of them:
1.) Another outdoor game
Gary Bettman spoke with the NHL's Board of Governors about the possibility of another outdoor game for next season. This isn't a new idea, more of a gauging of interest for the league. Over the summer the NHL worked on putting together a second outdoor classic that would feature two Canadian teams. The league couldn't move fast enough, but the idea didn't die.
The current scenario being discussed would involve CBC's Hockey Day in Canada, and would likely be hosted by Calgary in February 2011.
I have mixed feelings about another outdoor game. I don't feel that it would cheapen the Winter Classic or anything like that. My concern is the snowball effect granting another game might mean. In granting another outdoor game to CBC and the Canadian franchises the league could be viewed as giving in to pressure from individual owners.
Before it was announced that the Winter Classic would be hosted Jan. 1 at Fenway, the Minnesota Wild were pressing the league to host the event at either the Twins new Target Stadium or the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium on Jan. 17 as part of "Hockey Day in Minnesota." If the league gives in to the demand for an all-Canada outdoor game, it must craft it's decision carefully so as to prevent Minnesota and other franchises from requesting their own special events.
If they can do that, I'm all for it as long as the second game is kept as part of Hockey Day in Canada.
2.) Head shots
The NHL's general managers already met and decided to form a committee to review some of the dangerous hits that have occured this season and make recommendations. Colin Campbell has presented some of the information to the Board of Governors so that they understand what is going on, and the players have been screaming for years about banning blows to the head.
Honestly, I'm all for removing some of these dangerous hits. I think that two things need to happen. First of all the league needs to crackdown on the enforcement of charging, boarding and checking from behind. Players don't want to put their team at a disadvantage, and if the officials start calling these penalties more often it will cause them to think about it more.
Secondly, the league should adopt a new rule about blindside hits as part of "checking from behind." The basic premise of the checking from behind penalty is that a player can't see you coming, thus increasing the danger of the impact since they have no way to brace for the collision. Rewording this rule to include all blindside hits, with appropriate supplementary discipline included, should suffice to help reduce and punish these hits.
To be clear, I am only concerned with hits that players cannot see coming. Hits like Willie Mitchell on Jonathan Toews are okay by me. Toews could have avoided that hit if he had looked up sooner. Hits like Mike Richards on David Booth or Matt Cooke on Artem Anisimov would be included as these players could not see the play happening until the last second even though they were in an area of the ice where they should have expected it.
3.) Three point games
The idea here is that teams would get three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime win and one point for an overtime/shootout loss. Another idea I have read would give three points for a regulation win and one for overtime wins with nothing for a loss.
Personally, I don't like either system. This is mostly do to the arguments being used to justify the changes. Those in favor are arguing that it will drive teams to try and finish more games in regulation, rather than playing for overtime. I don't think it will make any difference.
Let's say that two teams are battling for a playoff position. They know that if they win they will open a three-point gap on their opponent, but if they lose they will be the ones three points behind. If they play for overtime they will only get a one-point if they win, but will also only be one point behind if they lose. As a coach, do you tell your guys to go for the win or play for overtime in that situation? I think that only those teams already falling like rocks in the standings will make an honest push to win in regulation come February and March.
There is also the argument that the "better teams" will get more an edge in the standings with three point games, and in practice that may prove true. However what happens if a team finishes with a record of 30 regulation wins, 40 regulation losses, and 12 overtime losses for 102 points; and another team finishes with 20 regulation wins, 15 overtime wins, 35 regulation losses, and 12 overtime losses for 102 points. Which team is the better team? Who goes to the playoffs if they are tied?
I think that the idea needs too much work to implement and will still be too complicated to understand. Maybe it can work, but I'm not a believer right now.
I've already aired my opinion on this in another blog, but to quickly summarize I feel that expansion in Canada is a worthwhile idea but needs to be thought through very carefully given the current economic climate and the fact that Canada has hardly had better luck supporting professional ice hockey than the United States (see my blog for a full list of examples).
It seems that Gary Bettman is thinking the same thing. He has told the Board of Governors that cities are interested and appear to be viable markets, but that any decision to expand is still years away.
On the NHL Hour radio show - Bettman specifically said they do not have the manpower and equipment to run 2 outdoor games. The 3 point game is coming. It makes sense mathematically and encourages teams to win in regulation. Just a point to make is that the Penguins have 10 of their 24 wins. That just shows that with their talent - they want to play 4 on 4 and shootout to win. Bullshirt! Have them pay a penalty for waiting and not pressing the entire game.
That's just it, though. I don't think teams will press and risk giving up those three points. It's the same reason teams don't press right now. Why would you give up two points in the standings when you can guarantee yourself one? I honestly think a three-point game will backfire in that respect. No argument on the Pens style of play this year, but it's working. They've only lost once in overtime.
And as for Bettman, he has also said that while they do not have the equipment and manpower right now, that is actually very low on his list of concerns for a second game. Remeber that until last year there was no ice truck for the winter classic. They made it work in 1991 (Las Vegas), 2003 (Edmonton) and 2008 (Buffalo) without the truck.